s college students, many of us enjoy going out on the weekends, whether it be with friends out for dinner and drinks, or out to the bars for a fun night, many of these events involve alcohol. While you may not consider your own drinking habits to be harmful to your health, you may want to think again. “Binge drinking” is on the rise, and more recent findings have discovered that the effects of this activity can be extremely detrimental on the body. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is defined as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or above.1
In other words, this means that for men, consuming 5 or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting and for females consuming 4 or more drinks, is considered to be binge drinking.1 Drinking heavily one night a week may not seem like a big deal, but in fact you are going more harm to your health than you would be if you had one drink a day. A common myth among college students and adolescents is “It’s okay if I drink as much as I want tonight because I haven’t had alcohol all week.”3 It doesn’t work like that. According to the CDC, binge drinking has many short term effects such as unintentional and intentional injuries, STIs, alcohol poisoning, weight gain and unintended pregnancy, as well as serious long term effects such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, liver disease, brain damage, and sexual dysfunction.2
When going out to drink, take these things into consideration. As college students, we often don’t think about the negative long term effects our health behaviors such as alcohol consumption could cause. We all want to have fun, but it is important that we pay attention to these things. If you are going to drink, do it in moderation, and just be more aware of how much alcohol you are really drinking on a given night. You may think you are only having one or two drinks, when in reality there could be two shots in each drink. Just being more aware and educated on the dangers of heavy alcohol use can help you to make better decisions, and in turn better your health for the future.
Myths exist regarding sexual assault, especially when it occurs under the influence of alcohol. Some judge the victim and think, “If drunk, what did he/she expect?” Sadly, this is an all too often a common societal response. Another myth is that, “If a woman drinks, she is more willing to have sex.”1 These myths place the fault on the victim rather than the perpetrator. The truth is that the victim is never to blame for being assaulted. The perpetrator is always the one at fault. It is critically important to remember, a victim can be either male or female.
Statistics show that sexual assault in college settings is usually associated with alcohol consumption. In fact, over half of college students’ sexual assaults occur in the presence of alcohol. A study conducted by Koss revealed that almost three-fourths (74%) of perpetrators and about half (55%) of victims of rape had been consuming alcohol.2 Furthermore, it was typically discovered that if either the perpetrator or victim had been drinking, both had been drinking alcohol (81%).2 Consumption of alcohol, however, does not cause an individual to commit a sexual assault. Rather, drinking alcohol offers the perpetrator an excuse for his or her behavior.
Prevention of sexual assault lies heavily in the hands of men. While males do make up a small fraction of sexual assault victims, the majority of the victims are female, which illustrates why men have a vital role to play in stopping this crime. Men can take simple steps to help prevent sexual assault. One thing men can do is to challenge other men.3 For example, if you hear a group of your male friends making crude jokes about women, confront the men and tell them about the harm they are doing. While not a direct form of sexual assault, sexist or crude jokes against women promote sexual violence by implicitly telling society that these acts are permissible and should not be taken as seriously as they should be. A second thing men can do to stop sexual assault is to commit to clear communication. For example, a man is on a date with a woman and receives mixed signals from her, he can STOP, ASK, and CLARIFY.3 Stop if you are unsure about what the woman wants, and Ask her to Clarify what her intentions are.
Committing to clear communication means that while drinking alcohol is acceptable while on a date, both men and women must not drink to the point where communication is no longer possible. Following these prevention strategies will allow men to make great strides towards reducing the rates of sexual assault, especially sexual assault that occurs under the influence of alcohol.
Carson Starkey, an 18 year old college freshman, moved to California from Texas to attend Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. In his first semester, Carson made the Dean’s list, made friends, and joined a fraternity. But on December 2, 2008, the conclusion of his first semester took a tragic turn when he became unresponsive after consuming large amounts of alcohol at a fraternity initiation. His fraternity brothers did not take him to hospital for fear of tarnishing their house name, but instead placed him on a dirty cot and left him alone to sleep it off, resulting in his death.
Carson’s blood alcohol level (BAC) was .40 and his needless death is one of many that occur each year from alcohol poisoning.1 The Starkey family created a non-profit organization called With Carson in 2008, which aimed to educate students and prevent alcohol poisoning deaths from happening in the future. The Starkeys corresponded with Texan Senator Kirk Watson to enact the Carson Starkey Alcohol Awareness and Education Act, which would enforce alcohol education in all public schools in Texas. They were also able to create the Texas 911 Lifeline Law, offering limited immunity to minors who report incidences of alcohol abuse1. Often, minors refrain from seeking urgent help for alcohol poisoning because they fear prosecution for underage drinking.
The success and impact of the With Carson organization resulted in the creation of Aware Awake Alive, a global educational program to create awareness about positive steps taken by bystanders that can prevent additional deaths from alcohol poisoning.1 As a family, the Starkeys work closely with high schools and colleges to personalize programs that will best fit their student population. Additionally, Aware Awake Alive makes an effort to educate young adults, parents, and school officials on the dangers of alcohol so that the information will continue to circulate.
For a CSULB student organization, Aware Awake Alive is an excellent program to promote. Additionally, supporting creation of 911 Lifelines similar to California and New Jersey to ensure medical assistance.2 The 911 Lifeline Legislation website of New Jersey cites three steps for minors (less than 21 yrs.) to take if someone is poisoned by alcohol: Call for help, Stay with your friend, and Talk with authorities.2 Aware Awake Alive has one goal, and that is to stop the unnecessary deaths caused by alcohol poisoning. If interested in additional information on this cause, visit www.awareawakealive.org.
Many college students engage in drinking at some point in their college career. Oftentimes students may feel pressured to drink at party or outing with their friends. It is also common for many students in fraternities or sororities to drink heavily. If you are a drinker or will be around someone who is drinking it is important to know the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning. Alcohol contains a legal poison, ethanol. Thus, it is critical to recognize when someone needs help and prevent serious complications or even save a life from poisoning.1,2
Some people may purposefully drink until they vomit or may think it is funny to see someone passed out from drinking. Vomiting is Stage 1 of alcohol poisoning and can lead to serious injury or death as the gag reflex is inhibited from alcohol. If someone is passed out, always turn them on their side so they do not choke on their vomit or aspirate (inhale) it into their lungs and suffocate to death. Stage 2 is a blackout. At this stage, long-term memory is completely disabled. Stage 3 is when excessive alcohol so depresses the brain, it can no longer control respiratory functioning. This ultimately causes complete cessation of breathing.2 In April 2004, a CSULB President’s Scholar, Jason Kirsinas, was celebrating his 21st birthday. Due to alcohol excess, his lungs stopped functioning and he died in the same hospital, Long Beach Community, in which he was born twenty-one years earlier.
Aware Awake Alive promotes knowing the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning to save a life.
ALCOHOL DANGER SIGNS
The acronym MUST HELP is used to determine if someone needs assistance. If anyone displays these symptoms, contact emergency medical assistance immediately.
Snoring/ Gasping for Air
Loss of Consciousness
Paleness/ Blueness of the skin
CALL FOR HELP If someone is breathing less than 8 times per minute or is vomiting uncontrollably, or is unconscious, call 911 immediately. Remember that the alcohol continues to rise in the blood even after someone is no longer drinking. The peak might be another hour or so later and death can come while he/she is unconscious.
STAY WITH YOUR FRIEND Never leave someone passed out alone. Never assume he/she will “sleep off” it off.
TALK WITH AUTHORITIES when they arrive to assist.
Linda Peña, MA, CADC
Heidi Burkey, MPH, CHES
Christina Goldpaint, MPH, CHES
Nop Ratanasiripong, RN, MSN, CCRC
The HEALTH BEAT Newsletter is published by California State University, Long Beach, Division of Student Services, 1250 Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90840. Printed in the USA. Copyright© 2008 by the Student Health Services. All rights reserved. Contact CSULB, Division of Student Services, Health Resource Center for a free subscription at (562) 985-4609.
The Health Resource Center does not accept responsibility for views expressed in articles, reviews and other contributions that appear in its pages. The purpose of the HEALTH BEAT newsletter is to serve college students and related professionals with health-related information, which may help understand a diagnosis or treatment, yet cannot serve as a replacement for the services of a licensed health care practitioner. The information and opinions presented in the HEALTH BEAT newsletter reflect the views of the authors.